Pet Owners Are Intentionally Injuring Their Animals To Get Opioid Prescriptions, FDA Warns

Some people are willing to do almost anything to get their hands on prescription drugs – and that includes injuring their own pets to obtain medication from veterinarians. 

Both the Drug Enforcement Agency and Food and Drug Administration are issuing warnings, advising doctors and veterinarians to be cautious of people who might be abusing their animals for the sake of narcotics.

Heather Pereira of Elizabethtown, Kentucky admitted to slicing into her retriever, Alice, with razors more than once, so she could get prescription painkillers. 

She went to two seperate animal hospitals, one of which was the Elizabethtown Animal Hospital, who suspected that something was up. Doctors phoned the police, believing the injuries to be interntional, and not believing the supposed stories of how she got them, which was apparently from rubbing up against a broken gutter. 

Alice had also required medical attention three times in a span of two months.

Pereira was charged with a felony, obtaining a controlled substance by making false statements, and for the torture of a dog, and sentanced to four years in prison in 2015.

However, she was released the following year in 2016, and was placed on probation.

Elizabethtown Police Officer John Thomas was one of the investigators throughout the case, and was appalled:

“I remember my initial feeling of disbelief, this can’t be real. It was shocking.”

But the most terrifying thing about this case is that Pereira isn’t alone.

Studies have shown that 13% of veterinarians believe pet owners harmed their animals, either by illness or by injuries, on purpose, to get ahold of opioids. This study was published by the Colorado School of Public Health in 2016.

It also revealed more than half, 62%, of veterinarians believed they had some sort of role in preventing prescription pill abuse. 

Co-Author Liliana Tenney said the following on the case:

“This is significant for two reasons. These providers want to ensure the treatment of pets. If this is truly the case and pet owners are intentionally harming animals, that’s an animal rights issue. If opioids are being prescribed and aren’t getting to the pets that need them because these drugs are being diverted, that’s a public health issue.”

People are distrubed and disgusted that anyone would do this to an animal:

Scott Brinks of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Control Division in Washington gave a serious warning to more than 200 doctors in Kentucky during a conference in August. 

He claims animals are becoming one of the biggest groups of victims to the massive drug crisis in the United States.

Scott Gottlieb, Commissisoner for Food and Drug Administration, released a similar warning statement along with a guide for veterinarians to detect drug seekers, and everything they might need to know in these situations:

“Just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use.”

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement earlier this month warning of the potential abuse and announced a resource guide on what veterinarians need to know.

“Just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use.” 

People are hoping these resources will aid in catching these malicious drug seekers, and sending them to prison, like Pereira:

President of Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association Dr. Doug Peterson watches for certain behaviors that can raise red flags, and listens to his gut instinct when he feels something might be wrong.

Peterson cautions fellow doctors that these drug abusers will stop at nothing to get opioids:

“Certainly, we know that people who have a drug problem will do almost anything to obtain them.”

H / T – Insider, Courier Journal